As the capital of Italy and having so many tourist attractions, it's no wonder that Rome is so popular. I was lucky enough to have a short stay there during one of Italy's public holidays, the Immaculate Conception (Thursday, 8 December, 2011).
It's easy to tell immediately that the Italian (all European countries, actually) train/metro system is very efficient and somewhat superior to those in Australia, mainly because the locals and tourists rely on it. I was informed by locals that pick-pockets are still active, particularly in the Roman Metro, so it pays to be very cautious.
There are affordable apartments in Rome, particularly if you are prepared to travel up a few flights of stairs and not have the buffet breakfast that hotels usually offer. Look for places close to bus stops or train stations, because if you are out and about sightseeing or carrying lots of shopping, you'll want these close by.
As I visited Rome on a religious public holiday, the Pope appeared at exactly 12 midday in the San Pietro square. Thousands gather and listen to what he has to say, and on this occasion he spoke in no less then six languages, impressive! I thought the lunch time viewing was all we'd get, but at around 4pm he was cruising around the main streets in his Pope-Mobile.
We entered San Pietro's Basilica at 8.30 in the morning and were rewarded with no line and instant access. When we exited at about 10.30am, the entrance lines were 50 people deep. It was the same with the Spanish Steps on the final morning - at 8.30 there was no-one there, which was perfect for photos. So try and get there early.
Of course you can't be everywhere early, so prioritise; the Colosseum and the Pantheon were bearable with lots of people in the peak times. Around all of your sightseeing you'll want to do shopping, and 'do as the Romans do' (because you're in Rome), so fitting it all in can be tricky.
For dinner we wanted to avoid the tourist areas and eat like a local Roman, so asking the taxi drivers is a great idea. The taxi drivers are nice and even though they don't always watch the road (!!), they know their way around the city.
There you have it, the three days I spent in Rome were enjoyable and went way too quickly! I hope you can get to Rome and enjoy it just like I did. Maybe for a white Christmas?
If you're travelling as a family and are wondering if your kids will enjoy Rome, don't hesitate. There are plenty of things to do in Rome with kids - they'll love it.